Pepper

For years the rule of thumb, perhaps a chef’s rule of thumb, when it came to pepper was to use white pepper for fish and poultry and black pepper for meat. In other words, the color of the pepper should match the color of the food — and it’s a rule that makes perfect aesthetic sense. But these days, chefs and lots of home cooks are forgoing aesthetics and making their pepper choices based on flavor. Just as it’s fun (and chic) to offer fleur de sel at the table, it’s fun to vary your pepper. The peppers I use most often are white Sarawak peppercorns, which are more spicy than hot; Penja peppercorns, which come in white (most common) and black (harder to find and very fragrant and quite hot); and Tellicherry and Malabar, which are large black peppercorns that have a nice balanced flavor. I can’t urge you strongly enough to use only freshly ground pepper — the difference in freshness, flavor, and fragrance between preground and freshly ground is immeasurable. The red chile peppers I always stock are piment d’Espelette and Aleppo, a sweet-spicy chile pepper from Turkey that’s sold dried and crushed. Finally, I always keep a tin of pink peppercorns in the cupboard. Although they’re not really in the pepper family (they come from the baies roseplant and baies rose is what they’re called in French), they make a pretty garnish for fish and salads. If you’d like, crush them lightly between your fingertips before sprinkling them over a dish.

Dorie Greenspan

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